Headlines: September 9, 2010
by Meg Larkin
First, in pharmaceutical news, Merck has received approval to market its antipsychotic Saphris for two additional uses. In addition to its original approval for use in treating acute schizophrenia or mania in adults, Saphris is now also approved for ongoing treatment of schizophrenia and for use alongside mood stabilizers in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Like other antipsychotic medications, Saphris can potentially cause serious side effects including stroke, weight gain, diabetes and suicide, and it has been shown to nearly double the risk of death when used in elderly patients with dementia. Saphris is a new entrant in the antipsychotic market, and its sales figures have yet to be reported by Merck. Last year, the global market for antipsychotics was $23.25 billion.
In quality news, Consumer Reports has begun rating surgical groups. The magazine has rated 221 surgical groups in 42 states, and will publish the findings both online and in its October issue. According to the New York Times, “The groups receive one, two or three stars, for below average, average or above average. The scores were based on complication and survival rates, whether the groups used the best surgical technique and whether patients were being sent home with certain medicines that research has shown to be beneficial after this type of surgery.” While it is unclear what impact the information will have on patient choices, and whether this will lead towards more reporting in future, the ratings are being hailed by some as a major step forward in medical transparency.
In legal news, the District Court Judge who suspended all federal funding of embryonic stem cell research has refused to lift the ban. Judge Royce Lamberth rejected the Obama Administration’s arguments that the injunction would delay research and lead to large numbers of lost jobs. According to Reuters, “The Obama administration had told Lamberth scores of research projects involving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding were affected by his injunction and more than 1,300 jobs were at risk.” The ruling is the latest in a case brought by two researchers challenging the compliance of Federal Rules regulating stem cell research funding with lows restricting the use of federal money in the destruction of embryos.
Finally, in public health news, CVS Caremark has announced plans to give away $5 million worth of flu vaccine to uninsured patients. The vaccines prevent the 2009 swine flu and this year’s seasonal strains including H3N2. According to the Washington Post, “vouchers for the vaccines will be available at clinics or community health centers starting Sept. 20. Consumers will be able to redeem the vouchers at any of CVS' 7,100 locations and its retail MinuteClinics.” Walgreens also plans to provide $1 million worth of the vaccine to uninsured patients.
Meg Larkin is a third year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns.